165. Conversation Among President Nixon, his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and Attorney General Mitchell, Washington, December 8, 1971, 4:20-5:01 p.m.12
Nixon: But Nelson [Rockefeller], how did he feel about the media on the India-Pakistan?
Mitchell: Oh, he thinks it’s disgraceful.
Nixon: Incidentally, before I say—I called Newton, while you were there. I called just beforehand because I heard he had a press conference [unclear]. I said you’ve done a hell of a job. And I repeated some of the lines. He said he was sitting there reading your backgrounder—I don’t know whether you got any press out of it. But I said, made this point. I said—and he raised a point of morality. He went through a very interesting exercise. He said Charlie Bartlett was in to see him. The difficulty, he said, was the press is like the Kennedys were because the Kennedys were obsessed with the idea of the Indian mystery and all of the God-like qualities and so forth of the Indians. He said those of US who work with the Indians up here know that they are the [unclear—most?]devious, trickiest sons-of-bitches there are. And he went on to say, I went on to tell him, I said how come we got so many votes. He said, "yeah, we got all the votes except India’s, the Russian satellites.” And we even got Rumania. He said, "well first of all, you know a lot of Mid-Eastern votes were with us.” [unclear] They were sort of reflecting the Israeli thing. I can see that, you know, on withdrawal, they can’t be against withdrawal. But then he said there are countries like Namibia and a lot jackass places like that [unclear]. He said they also—this idea, you see this is where The New York Times and the rest are wrong, where they said that if aggression is engaged in by a democracy it’s all right. But where it’s engaged in by a dictatorship, it’s wrong. They forget that most of the countries in the world are dictatorships, including all these little countries. Second point, the point that I made to him which I [unclear], now look there’s a totally moral attitude of our critics here. First they say, they make the point that because there’s 600 million Indians and only 60 million in West Pakistan, we’re on the wrong side. We should be with the 600 million Indians. I said since when do we determine the morality of our policy on the basis of how many people a country has? I said the second reason that they’re wrong, then they say but India is a democratic country, and Pakistan is a totalitarian country, a dictatorship, and therefore India—we shouldn’t be on the side of a dictatorship but on the side of the democratic country. I said if aggression is engaged in by any country, it’s wrong. And in a sense it’s even more wrong for a democratic country to engage in it because democratic countries are held in a higher degree of morality. And I said international morality will be finished—the United Nations will be finished—if you adopt the principle that because a country is democratic and big it can do what the hell it pleases. I really think that puts the issue to these sons-of-bitches.
Kissinger: I found something, Mr. President, which you can use against Teddy Kennedy. I knew there was a secret deal that Kennedy made with Pakistan. State denied it. I said—
Nixon: Ayub told me there was one.
Kissinger: I knew there was one.
Nixon: He told me there was one and I didn’t—when I was there. The Ambassador, the Ambassador denied it to me. I said that Ayub told me that. The Ambassador told me no there wasn’t. He knew nothing about it.
Kissinger: [3 seconds not declassified] I said it must have gone backchannel.
Mitchell: Was that when Jackie got the horses?
Nixon: See MCCONAUGHY was not Ambassador when I was there. This was a later Ambassador.
Mitchell: Was that when Jackie got the horses?
Nixon: Jesus Christ.
Nixon: Election day 1962.
Mitchell: I heard [unclear].
Nixon: Ayub was [unclear].
Kissinger: [unclear] They even had a legal obligation. But at any rate—
Mitchell: Well what [unclear] the Pakistani Government has?
Nixon: They have.
Kissinger: They have.
Nixon: Not on the basis of that but on the basis of their treaty. [unclear] The treaty I understand—
Kissinger: We have a bilateral treaty.
Nixon: Gives US an out, doesn’t it on India?
Nixon: Well, I mean I understand it could. But this doesn’t. This meant with India. The deal.
Kissinger: The treaty gives US a slight out. But it [unclear—doesn’t cite?]to India by name. And we’ve got the UN defining them as aggressors.
Nixon: So how can we play this Henry?
Kissinger: Well, the next time they say we’re anti-Indian and pro-Pakistani, and that you have a liking for—
[Nixon took a brief phone call unrelated to South Asia.]
Kissinger: I think at the right moment when they say you have a liking for these military dictators. [unclear] You could certainly say that to the contrary you were carrying out a commitment made in two administrations. Both [unclear] and previously in the Eisenhower administration. But that they were general in nature. And that the specific one made by President Kennedy to General Ayub which applies here, particularly to the case of India. What we will maintain—
Nixon: Have you told John about what we’re doing?
Kissinger: Well this is what I want to discuss with you, Mr. President.
Nixon: Incidentally, I don’t want that to go any further.
Kissinger: There’s no way it can be done. I got a message to you from the Shah, in which he says he can send ammunition—he is doing it now. He cannot send—he cannot send airplanes a) because the Pakistanis can’t fly the airplanes anyway because—
Nixon: They cannot read.
Kissinger: But most importantly because the Soviet-Indian treaty makes them vulnerable to the Soviets. He’s proposing that the Jordanians send their planes to Pakistan, because the Pakistanis can fly the Jordanian planes. And then he sends his planes to Jordan with Iranian pilots to cover Jordan while they are engaged in Pakistan.
Nixon: I should think—I could think we could get a commitment from Israel on the Jordanians.
Kissinger: Oh, no problem.
Nixon: The Israelis sure are on our side on this one, aren’t they?
Kissinger: I see Golda Meir on Friday. [December 10]
Nixon: Well when you talk to her, you tell her, Henry, that this is a goddamn Russian ploy. That’s what she’s got to understand.
Kissinger: Well, what we are betting on, Mr. President, [unclear], as long as the war with East Pakistan [unclear]. But the Indian plan is now clear. They’re going to move their forces from East Pakistan to the west. They will then smash the Pakistan land forces and air forces, annex the part of Kashmir that is in Pakistan and then call it off. After that has happened—and then you have another [unclear] message from the Shah saying this section of West Pakistan now would be a mortal threat to the security of Iran. When this has happened, the centrifugal forces in West Pakistan would be liberated. Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier [unclear—Province?] will celebrate. West Pakistan would become a sort of intricate Afghanistan [unclear—of five states?].
Nixon: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kissinger: East Pakistan would become a Bhutan. All of this would have been achieved by Soviet support, Soviet arms, and Indian military force. The impact of this on many countries threatened by the Soviet Union or by Soviet clients [unclear]. I talked to Helms this morning—I wanted to check my judgment; I didn’t have an advisor. He thinks it will have a catastrophic impact on the Middle East. No one could [unclear] guarantee or give up any territory that they have because they won’t believe it. The Arabs will think if they can get the same cover from the Soviets that the Indians got, they could try another round and maybe more. The Chinese, now this part is my judgment, up to a certain point being aggressive [unclear]. But if it turns out that we end up with the complete dismemberment of Pakistan, then they will conclude, "All right. We played it decently but we’re just too weak.” And that they have to break their encirclement, not by dealing with us, but by moving either [unclear] or drop the whole idea. So I think this, unfortunately, has turned into a big watershed, which is going to affect our chances in the situation in South Asia. Now I don’t mind our saying publicly [unclear]—
Nixon: Oh, I know.
Kissinger: But the fact of the matter is that unfortunately we are confronted with a tough situation.
Kissinger: And it seems to me what we have to do now, or what I would recommend, is where we went wrong before is not to try to scare off the Indians.
Nixon: But how could we scare them?
Kissinger: If we had designed—if we had understood. I understood it, but I thought I could maneuver it instead of hitting it head on.
Nixon: I don’t know what would have affected them.
Kissinger: Well what would have affected them is if we said, on Mrs. Gandhi’s visit—
Kissinger: We—you did exactly what all your advisors recommended. But if we had recommended to you to be brutal to her rather than to be nice to her, and if you had said, "Now I just want you to know"—
Nixon: Our whole plan was to—
Kissinger: Exactly. I mean you did exactly what we all recommended to you.
Nixon: As a matter of fact, Rogers, if anything, on this was tougher than I was. No, I inferred that it would be—well at dinner I told her that there, any war would be very, very unacceptable. And then Rogers said he told her that the corollary—
Kissinger: Well we didn’t—we told—our feeling was we shouldn’t give her a pretext to come back home—
Kissinger: And then say—
Nixon: And then say she has no friends that she can—
Kissinger: She has no friends [unclear].
Nixon: Well that was a mistake.
Kissinger: The mistake was that we should have understood that she was not looking for pretext—that she was determined to go. And secondly, we should have been much tougher with the Russians.
Nixon: Well, what could we have done? How?
Kissinger: We should have told them what we finally told them last Sunday—that this would mark a watershed in our relationship, that there could be no Middle East negotiations if this thing would grow. We would have had to play it tough. And thirdly, we should have, once the cat was among the pigeons, when they moved on November 22, we had cut off, as you wanted, but we couldn’t get the bureaucracy to do. We could have cut off economic AID the first or second day, plus all of arms instead of waiting ten days and diddling around.
Nixon: We’ve done all that. But I ordered all that as you recall.
Kissinger: I’m not blaming.
Nixon: We just couldn’t get it done, okay.
Kissinger: The mistake was that in every other crisis, Mr. President, what I have done is I’ve—I blame myself. When I have analyzed properly.
Kissinger: In every other crisis, our basic attitude was the hell with the State Department; let them screw around with the little ones. But I forgot that in the other crisis we had all the elements of positioning. Even though it was late when we moved, since nothing could happen until we moved, we didn’t pay for the delay. In this situation, we got in a fast moving situation that we could not hold up, so that the delay accelerated the situation—we were always a little bit too late. We always did the right thing. You ordered it at the right moment. But we maneuvered it wrong. [unclear]
Kissinger: No, we couldn’t touch the Russians.
Nixon: I wonder. I wonder.
Kissinger: At any rate, we’ve got the same problem in the West now.
Nixon: Now what do we do?
Kissinger: We have two choices now. Keating—I told Alex Johnson a few minutes ago that I hope he will [unclear].
Nixon: Well, forget what he’s doing.
Kissinger: Well the trouble is we have to convince the Indians now. We’ve got to scare them off an attack on West Pakistan as much as we possibly can. And therefore we’ve got to get another tough warning to the Russians. I mean—but you pay a price because you are risking the summit. On the other hand, the summit may not be worth a damn if they lose, if they kick you around. We’ve got to warn the Russians about some kind of attack on West Pakistan. I would encourage the Jordanians to move their squadrons into West Pakistan and the Iranians to move their squadrons into—
Nixon: Now tell me, about the moving the squadrons, what effect will that have?
Kissinger: Enough. Militarily in Pakistan we have only one hope now. To convince the Indians that the thing is going to escalate. And to convince the Russians that they’re going to pay an enormous price. It may not work, Mr. President. We’ve gone pretty far and we can’t make up six years of military imbalance.
Nixon: We should have never let it get out of balance. We didn’t.
Kissinger: Again, if they—
Nixon: Frankly, Johnson, to his great discredit—
Kissinger: But again, this is an example where the bureaucracy got us. You promised YAHYA on your first visit to send some arms there.
Nixon: We did.
Kissinger: Well, it took US a year to get the bureaucracy to fulfill your promise. And the arms were just starting to move when the Bengalis attacked. [unclear]. So it isn’t—
Nixon: I know.
Kissinger: We are not to blame. We didn’t know there was going to be a war in ‘71, but it took a year to get your promise to YAHYA worked out.
Nixon: Now let’s see, first with regard to the planes, what’s the purpose of [unclear]?
Kissinger: The purpose of the planes is—I think where we’re in trouble—
Kissinger: I think the best—or we could play tough.
Nixon: I agree.
Kissinger: If we did this, we could give a note to the Chinese and say, "If you are ever going to move this is the time.”
Nixon: All right, that’s what we’ll do.
Mitchell: All they have to do is put their forces on the border.
Kissinger: Yeah but the Russians I am afraid—but I must warn you, Mr. President, if our bluff is called, we’ll be in trouble.
Kissinger: Well, we’ll lose. But if our bluff isn’t, if we don’t move, we’ll certainly lose.
Mitchell: You think we’ll lose the [unclear] with the Russians?
Kissinger: But they will lose [unclear].
Nixon: What we have to do, Henry, is to get it out, calmly and cold-bloodedly make the decision. That’s all there is to it.
Kissinger: But we’ve got to make it within 36 hours.
Nixon: Oh, I know. That’s what I mean. No, I think what we need to see here, and I’ve got, I’m not going to have a meeting. No more goddamn meetings to decide this.
Kissinger: Well I’ve got a WSAG scheduled for tomorrow morning.
Nixon: I’m not going to have a meeting.
Kissinger: While Rogers is out of town.
Nixon: What the hell good is Irwin going to be if there’s a meeting? Or do you want a meeting?
Kissinger: It wouldn’t work—let me do this. We’ll have a WSAG meeting in the morning. I will then present you what your choices are.
Nixon: What I would rather do, I think the WSAG meeting is fine, why don’t you figure out now what these two choices are. In other words, I see the choices—in other words, take the line. Do one of two things. First, we can let the goddamn thing just deteriorate.
Kissinger: Which is to say, it’s not our war.
Nixon: It’s not our war. Which is basically the State line.
Nixon: Or has been the State line.
Nixon: He already has, John.
Mitchell: He has? The Shah?
Nixon: No, YAHYA. He’s already asked for help.
Kissinger: He’s already asked for help.
Mitchell: What’s he going to say about it?
Nixon: He won’t say that. He won’t embarrass the Chinese. But, what I’m getting at Henry is we’ve got to look at our options here. All right, now if we let it go, your fear is that it will certainly screw up the South Asian area. All right, that’s screwed up. The other—your greater fear, however, is that it will, it will encourage—it will, may get the Chinese stirred up so that they do something else.
Kissinger: No, I would—
Nixon: And they’ll move towards India, or towards Russia, or both. And it will encourage the Russians to do the same thing someplace else. That’s the dangers on the one side.
Kissinger: In the Middle East. And because, it will affect countries like Iran and Indonesia. Confronted either with a Soviet threat or a Soviet client threat. If Iran were to be confronted by both, with deciding that we’re just not steady enough. I mean—with all our good intentions, we have just too many [unclear].
Nixon: Yeah. All right, fine. That’s one side. Then we go on, we’ll go through with the summit and all that crap. The other possibility is to do these things. You understand? I’m for doing anything if there’s a chance that we’re—
Kissinger: Let me play this scenario a little further. If the Chinese should draw the conclusion—up to now we’ve improved our situation with the Chinese.
Kissinger: Well, we’ve played a tough line at the UN.
Nixon: Have they gotten anything for that?
Nixon: Do they think the UN is worth shit?
Kissinger: No, no. But they thought that we might be in collusion with the Indians and the Russians to sucker them into war.
Nixon: They thought so?
Kissinger: I think so.
Nixon: Jesus Christ.
Kissinger: So I think up to now we’ve helped ourselves. But the second problem is our people say we haven’t—the Chinese haven’t done any more than we. That’s true. But their problem is they haven’t got the forces to do a hell of a lot more.
Mitchell: They also have a problem with their military.
Kissinger: And they have a massive problem with their military. But they made them decide on—
Mitchell: [unclear] in the leadership of their military.
Nixon: They’re afraid of them.
Kissinger: They may decide we’ve done the right thing. But we haven’t got the punch to make it effective.
Nixon: Yeah, but you know we can’t do this without the Chinese helping us. As I look at this thing, the Chinese have got to move to that damn border. The Indians have got to get a little scared.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: All right. Now I wonder—
Mitchell: The other side, the other side—
Nixon: I wonder if there’s a way, do you—we’ll get a message to the Chinese.
Kissinger: They won’t give US a prior commitment. The problem with the Jordanian planes—actually, Mr. President, I think we won’t have any real choice because the Jordanians, in my view, are going to send their planes anyway. [unclear exchange]
Nixon: Let me say this, in view of the, in view of this—so do we have to make, we don’t make any announcement about the Jordanian letter or anything like that. What do we have to do in order to get the Jordanian thing? A prior commitment from the Shah?
Kissinger: No, we just had—
Nixon: I’ve already done that.
Kissinger: All you have to do is tell the Jordanians—
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: —that we don’t accept it.
Nixon: All right. But you—they have to be told that immediately. That’s the least we can do.
Kissinger: Right. I think, Mr. President, we can wait 24 hours to—
Kissinger: Well, because I think I should present you calmly what everyone else says—our military—
Nixon: Henry, if you raise this thing at the WSAG meeting—
Kissinger: It isn’t a WSAG meeting because—
Nixon: About the Jordanians?
Kissinger: Yes, because—
Nixon: Then the whole damn thing will get out in the papers.
Kissinger: Because it came in the open channels, there was no way I could hold it.
Nixon: Then it will be out in the papers.
Kissinger: Well, if you move two squadrons of planes it will be in the papers.
Nixon: I know, but they moved them. But my point is—
Kissinger: Well it’s illegal for them to move them without [unclear].
Kissinger: No, we can get it done.
Nixon: And try, Henry, to see what we, what really we can do to affect the outcome.
Kissinger: There are two things to consider. One is, the Jordanian move without our support, which we can probably engineer, is possible, but won’t be a deterrent on the Indians unless the Indians feel we are behind it.
Nixon: I’d like to make sure that the Indians know we are behind it one way or another.
Kissinger: I believe—
Nixon: I think it will be in the papers.
Kissinger: [unclear] No we can—I got a message to the Jordanians today—
Kissinger: —[2 seconds not declassified]. They had to press these goddamn [unclear] for two days—well they told US there was a message, but they also said the King was hoping that we wouldn’t answer it because he didn’t want to give his [unclear] for the opposite to be true. I got a message [3 seconds not declassified] to the King today telling him we were not yet ready to give the permission but we understood the problem, and that he shouldn’t construe our silence as a lack of [unclear]. He knows [unclear]. He didn’t commit US to anything. I mean, it isn’t any one move we’ve got to make, Mr. President. If we do it, we’ve got to go all out or we shouldn’t do it at all. We should then—the thing that worked so well in the Middle East was—
Kissinger: In Jordan we suddenly just started pouring things in there. Now I have a little task force working on all the measures you could take if you wanted to go tough.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: Well that’s what I’m working on. [unclear] we’ll take an aircraft carrier from Vietnam into the Bay of Bengal for the evacuation of American civilians that are in the area. We don’t say they’re there to—it would be a mistake. We just say we’re moving them in, in order to evacuate American civilians. That shouldn’t [unclear].
Nixon: We certainly used that as a pretext, a pretext in the Jordan crisis.
Kissinger: That’s right. Now all—I’m sure all hell will break loose here, but they will pay US off on success.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: I mean after all [unclear]—
Nixon: Would you, John, move the aircraft carrier? I’d do it immediately. I wouldn’t wait 24 hours.
Mitchell: The goddamn Indians have [unclear].
Kissinger: We’ve had arrangements made to get airplanes into Dacca.
Mitchell: The only way we can get the [unclear] is by helicopter.
Nixon: The aircraft carrier is easy. Now what else?
Kissinger: Well the aircraft carrier, according to the Indians, would have to be delivered here because Keating will have a heart attack—
Nixon: What the Christ is Keating doing? Fucking around again?
Kissinger: Sort of. Keating has—
Nixon: Did you tell Rockefeller?
Kissinger: No, no.
Nixon: You want to put Keating on the goddamn [unclear].
Kissinger: I told, I told Alex Johnson. Keating—the Indians had the nerve to call in Keating, and said that their recognition of Bangladesh proves their peaceful intent because it meant that they had no annexationist desires, it meant that they were going to leave Bangladesh on its own for a period. And Keating said he agreed with them. So they feed him this line that—the Indian foreign minister said—
Kissinger: —”You shouldn’t call me an aggressor" he said. "I wouldn’t have used this term. I would have said what you were doing was an offensive-defense.” You know [unclear]—
Nixon: Now there’s one thing, there’s one other thing, Henry, that, you know, [unclear]Bush has done at the UN [unclear] and it plays balls out. I may just have to go on in a press conference, to [meet] the press on this subject, and say they are aggressors. And, you see what I mean? Now that’s another—it brings the whole right—
Kissinger: I think if we’re going to play it at all, we’ve got to do it fast and hard. The worst thing could be to wait for every little thing to develop as we have done on the East Pakistan crisis.
Nixon: Now, what about Indian aid? Is there anything more that we can do there?
Kissinger: We can assess—the only other—
Nixon: Remember, on this I was for doing it more openly.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: And all we’ve done—remember the whole line was, "Well let’s do it but not say anything.” Well, we’ve done that and it hasn’t worked. Right?
Kissinger: God no. We did all—
Nixon: On the economic side, you know—
Kissinger: On the economic side—
Nixon: Do you remember two weeks ago I got Connally in before he left and he said, "Now you cut off everything that you can.” We told him everything, Henry, here.
Kissinger: Yeah, but Connally—the difference was you told both Connally and Rogers. Connally moved the same afternoon to cut off Ex-Im—
Kissinger: —and he’s been holding up loans at the World Bank. State blew 2 weeks to prepare position papers. The day we announced our munitions cutoff, partial munitions cutoff, they did it in the form of a release that said what we would continue to ship. So we didn’t give the Indians the real shock effect when they still were only—when they—at first the Indians were not claiming they were invading. First they said they were Bengalis.
Kissinger: But that is water over the dam.
Mitchell: What were the Russians going to do about [unclear—Bangladesh?]
Kissinger: They haven’t decided yet.
Mitchell: Are they going to?
Nixon: Well, we won’t—ever.
Kissinger: But what we should do, Mr. President, and we have another 24 hours to make the decision, I don’t want to talk you into it now, because we should do all these things simultaneously.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: We should get a note to the Chinese.
Kissinger: We should move the carrier to the Bay of Bengal.
Nixon: I agree with that. Go ahead.
Kissinger: We should—
Nixon: Let’s, let’s talk about the things I mean. One, I’d agree with him. Second, with regard to an announcement, with regard to the AID thing, I mean just cut it off. All AID to India, period.
Kissinger: Well, it’s practically all cut off now.
Kissinger: Except for the $124 million worth of goods that—
Nixon: Well, how about saying it will not be included in our next budget. We can announce the budget, see. AID to India will not be included.
Kissinger: That we can do. And I’d let the—I’d let the Jordanians move—
Nixon: Put that to them [unclear exchange].
Kissinger: —another squadron to Pakistan simply to show them some exclamation and let the Iranians move their two squadrons to Jordan if they want to.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: Thirdly, I will get a stem-winder of a note to the Russians to tell them that it will shoot everything, it will clearly jeopardize everything we have—
Nixon: One of the real problems we have here is that Dobrynin is not here. You can fill him in. I can bring him in and tell him; it would have a hell of a lot more effect.
Kissinger: And you could tell the Chinese what you’re doing and tell them of the advantage for them to move some troops to the frontier. Now, some of these things I defend. Pakistan [sic.—India] is, in my view, going to move East. The Jordanians are going to move their two squadrons anyways. There are already Pakistani pilots. That is hardly [really?] necessary, so that countries like Iran don’t forget to [unclear—be impressed?]—what in God’s name did YAHYA do for us? When we get in trouble, this is what all these countries are going to do for us.
Nixon: You say it’s illegal for US to do, also for the Jordanians.
Kissinger: Well, the way we can make it legal is to resume arms sales through—if we, if you announce that Pakistan is now eligible for the purchase of arms. See, one thing these guys never told US when they cut off licenses to Pakistan—
Nixon: That would be tough, Henry, to go that way. Did they say that Pakistan now can get arms? You’d have one hell of a—
Kissinger: I’m getting to the legal provision.
Nixon: Oh yeah.
Kissinger: If we had not closed the pipeline to Pakistan then Jordan could transfer its arms to Pakistan legally. Because the law says that any country which is receiving or eligible for American arms AID can receive American arms from other countries.
Mitchell: Well, that’s all [unclear]
Kissinger: But the way you get the Jordanian planes in there is to tell the King we cannot give you legal permission. On the other hand, we’d have to figure out a message, which says, "We’ll just close our eyes. Get the goddamned planes in there.”
Nixon: Can we send a special emissary to him?
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: We’d have to do it that way. We cannot authorize it.
Nixon: How would we do it? Through some embassy or is that?
Kissinger: No, no, no. We’d have to use either, we’d have to use—
Nixon: Helms? Helms could do it, couldn’t he?
Nixon: All right. Let’s get that one down.
Kissinger: We might even be able to get the Israelis to get someone in there.
Nixon: Talk to the Israelis and see if you can do something on that, will you?
Nixon: Well, at least tell the Jordanians, too. We’ll hold them harmless against the Israelis. See? I mean, we—If they found out that we’re talking with the Israelis, I think that’s something we could leak—
Kissinger: We cannot leak it. Legally it is not possible for Jordan to get our [unclear-permission?]. The way to do it is the way we’ve had to deal with Iran. But the Shah of Iran doesn’t dare do it anymore unless he gets a formal commitment from us, not because of the Congress but because of the Russians. This is the same. If the situation is—
Nixon: Now, what’s the formal position? [unclear]
Kissinger: Well, either way, unless we make a formal declaration, the Russians may jump ship.
Nixon: Can we do that through a private communication? Do we have to do it in public?
Kissinger: Well, his planes have an additional problem, Mr. President. That they would have to be flown by Iranian pilots.
Nixon: Oh, I know.
Kissinger: The better arrangement is for the Iranian planes to go to Jordan, and the Jordanian—
Nixon: Yeah, I know. I know. All right. We can work that proposition out. But it’s difficult for the Russians. I don’t know what we can say that you have not already said.
Kissinger: A stiff note. Right now, I haven’t replied to the note they gave US on Monday. And I think we should just say nothing until we’ve done something because we’ve got nothing left to say.
Mitchell: By the time your note gets through that Russian bureaucracy they’ll be so far down the line.
Kissinger: No, we’d give [unclear]—
Nixon: To Brezhnev.
Kissinger: It goes directly to Brezhnev.
Nixon: Yeah, we have a way.
Kissinger: If State did it, they would just sit on it.
Kissinger: After you’ve—because we haven’t got enough to tell them yet. After you’ve made the final decision on the Jordan thing. And after we’ve moved—we shouldn’t move the carrier until you’ve decided on the—I think if we do anything we should do it all together.
Nixon: Well, it seems to me that [unclear] very much. But we move the carrier, the Jordanians move their planes—
Kissinger: [unclear exchange] The Chinese move their forces.
Nixon: Well, the way we do that is you get a message through Walters?
Nixon: Just go to New York and say, I have a message from the President to Chou En-lai. Put it on that basis. I wouldn’t fool around.
Mitchell: What’s the prospect of the Chinese moving?
Nixon: None. Well, that’s what I mean. If there’s a chance, you told me none, Henry, yesterday. Remember?
Kissinger: No, but that was when they thought they were completely wrong. I’m not so sure there’s none, Mr. President. Because they know that this is a dress rehearsal of what may happen to them.
Nixon: What I would like to do in the note to the Chinese is to state exactly that, that I consider this to be a dress rehearsal and I think their move, some move toward the border would restrain India. And that as far as we’re concerned we hold them harmless. The Russians aren’t going to dump the Chinese. Not now.
Kissinger: My feeling, Mr. President, is that the Russians are not likely going to give up the trade, the Middle East negotiations, and the SALT negotiations—
Nixon: Incidentally, a small thing, but did Haig work out something for Stans? [unclear] I told him, don’t give anything away. But don’t worry about it. Stans got his message. Let Haig handle it.
Kissinger: They are still afraid that you’re too bright. [unclear] And I think that their whole governmental system was geared towards relaxation with us.
Nixon: I know.
Kissinger: This is a godsend that President Nixon comes their way, [unclear] and therefore I don’t think [unclear].
Nixon: What is it then?
Kissinger: Well, then the Pakistanis are going to lose. But even then we are not that directly, that much involved. The carrier—
Nixon: Well, my point is they’re going to lose anyway. At least we make an effort, and there is a chance to save it. If they lose anyway, we’re no worse off than if we didn’t try. That’s the way I look at it. Don’t you agree, John?
Mitchell: Yes, and I know there are time factors here that people aren’t taking into consideration. That the Pakistanis in East Pakistan are going to keep the Indians busy for quite a while before they can move west.
Kissinger: I think, if I had a guess, I think that it is not inconceivable to me that the Chinese will start a little diversion—not a huge one—but enough to keep the Indians from moving too many troops west.
Nixon: [unclear]. But do you think we could encourage them that way?
Kissinger: Well, it would certainly take a load off their minds. But the advantage is if we communicate all this stuff with Haig to the Chinese, and they see that we meant business. Secondly, we told the Shah of Iran, and the Jordanians, and other friends that you do everything you can. And you would do more if it were not for this goddamn Senate. I think it’s better [unclear]. They were sending cables to the King of Jordan lecturing him about the immorality of getting involved in a war 500 miles away.
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia]
Kissinger: Mr. President, if anyone had predicted five years ago that Pakistan could be dismembered with Russian assistance, without anyone doing something, they would have thought that was insane.
Nixon: I think we’re setting this up as a public relations campaign, both at the UN and [unclear]. It’s very helpful. That’s one of the few good things that’s happened.
Nixon: I’m not concerned about the Teddy Kennedy [unclear]. Are you?
Mitchell: Not at all.
Kissinger: I think they’re all on the wrong side of the issue, because in 6 months it will be apparent that Indian oppression of Bengal is much worse than Pakistani oppression.
Mitchell: That stupid Kennedy. At the same time that he’s got India on the table, he’s attacking the British. [unclear]
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Nixon: In what you discuss at your meeting, I just strongly urge—don’t let, keep as much of it under the hat as you can. What I mean is let’s do the carrier thing. Let’s get assurances to the Jordanians. Let’s send a message to the Chinese. Let’s send a message to the Russians. And I would tell the people in the State Department not a goddamn thing they don’t need to know. Right, John?
Mitchell: I would hope so.
Kissinger: Except that they have to know of the movement of the Jordanian planes. And I would rather—
Mitchell: Well, you’ve got to give them the party line on that or all a sudden the Secretary of State will say that’s illegal.
Kissinger: I’d rather just have—
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: Let Johnson in on it now.
Nixon: All right.
Kissinger: To say that if they move them against our law, they are not to have [unclear—sanctions?].
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: I mean, I’ve got to tell them that much.
Nixon: All right, that’s an order. You’re goddamn right.
Nixon: Is it really so much against our law?
Kissinger: What’s against our law is not what they do, but our giving them permission.
Nixon: Henry, we give the permission privately.
Kissinger: That’s right.
Nixon: Hell, we’ve done worse.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation among Nixon, Kissinger, and Mitchell, Old Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 307–27. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the conversation published here specifically for this volume.↩
- During the course of a discussion of the crisis in South Asia, Nixon, Kissinger, and Mitchell weighed the possibilities of increasing pressure on India. Nixon instructed Kissinger to contact China to urge the Chinese to initiate military moves toward the Indian border, and he authorized the movement of a carrier group into the Bay of Bengal.↩